John Anster

Quotations


Life
1793-1867 [John Martin Anster]; b. Charleville, Co. Cork, and educated TCD, schol. 1814; converted from Catholicism to the Church of Ireland; winner of Vice-Chancellor’s Poetry Prize; grad. BA, 1816; bar, 1824; contrib. prose essays in North British Review and 28 poems to the Amulet (1826); and eventually became Regius Professor of Civil Law at TCD, having held office as registrar of the Admiralty Court, from 1837;
 
first trans. of Goethe’s Faust, of which extracts appeared in Blackwood’s in 1820 and the first part, as Faust: A Dramatic Mystery, in book-form in 1835, the second part appearing in 1864; his lyric “The Fairy Child” was included in Charles Gavan Duffy’s Ballad Poetry of Ireland (1845); wrote entries for James Will’s Illustrious and Distinguished Irishmen;
 
contrib. poems and articles to the Dublin University Magazine, 1837-56, including an essay on Schiller (Dublin University Magazine, Vol. VII, No. 37; Jan. 1856); wrote on Irish Question in North British Review, 1847 onwards; published Study of Roman Civil Law (1851); contrib. to James Wills’ Illustrious Irishmen; received a Civil List pension;
 
d. 9 June; called ‘the unapproachable translator of the great master’ by Freeman Wills in biog. of his br. W. G. Wills; Faustus kept up in Germ. Tauchnitz Series (Leipniz 1867); the Cassell edn. was illustrated by Harry Clarke (Harrap 1991; rep. 1985); his “Fairy Child” was styled a pleasing ballad and quoted in full to illustrate the changeling theme in T. C. Corker’s Researches in the South of Ireland (1824).CAB ODNB TAY RAF DIW DIB MKA OCIL DIL

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Works

  • Ode to Fancy, with Other Poems (Dublin: Milliken 1815);
  • Lines on the Death of Her Royal Highness the Princess Charlotte of Wales [... &c.] (Dublin: R. Milliken; London: Longman 1818) [pamph.];
  • Poems with Some Translations from the German (Dublin: R. Milliken; London: Cadell & Davies; Edinburgh: Blackwood 1819);
  • Xeniola (1824), and Do. [as] Xeniola: Poems including Translations from Schiller and de la Motte-Fouqué (Dublin: R. Milliken 1837);
  • trans., Faustus: A Dramatic Mystery; The Bride of Connth; The First Walpurgis Night, ‘translated by J.A.’ (London: Longman 1835);
  • Introductory Lecture on the Study of the Roman Civil Law (Dublin: Hodges & Smith 1850) [var. 1851];
  • ‘Schiller’, in Dublin University Magazine, Vol. VII, No. 37 (Jan. 1856);
  • Faustus: The Second Part, from the German of Goethe (London: Longman 1864); rep. as Faust (London: Harrap 1925);
  • ‘German Literature at the Close of the Last Century and the Commencement of the Present’, in Afternoon Lectures on Literature and Art (Dublin: Hodges & Smith; London: Bell & Daldy 1864), pp.151-95.
Note: Charles Gavan Duffy, ed. Ballad Poetry of Ireland (1845) includes Anster’s lyric “The Fairy Child”.

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Criticism

  • James Clarence Mangan, ‘Goethe’s posthumous works’, in Dublin University Magazine, Vol. II (Oct. 1833), pp.361-85;
  • James Clarence Mangan, review of Faust, ‘Anthologica Germanica V: Faust, and the Minor Poems of Goethe’, in Dublin University Magazine, Vol. VII (March 1836), pp.278-302;
  • James Clarence Mangan, ‘Anster’s Translation of Faust’, in Dublin University Magazine, Vol. VI (July 1835), pp.96-118;
  • James Clarence Mangan, [q.tit.], in The Irishman (21 April 1849), [see extract];
  • Charles Gavan Duffy, editorial notice to “The Fairy Child”, Ballad Poetry of Ireland (Dublin: James Duffy 1845), p.59 [see extract];
  • W. R. Le Fanu, Seventy Years of Irish Life (London: Edward Arnold 1894) [see extract];
  • Patrick Rafroidi, Irish Literature in English, The Romantic Period, Vol. 1 (1980), pp.43, 159, 302;
  • Joseph Spence, ‘“The Great Angelic Sin”: The Faust Legend in Irish Literature, 1820-1900’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal, Vol 1, No. 2 (Autumn 1994), pp.47-58, espec. pp.51-54;
  • Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996) [see extract]; see also Irish Book Lover, Vol. 2.

 

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Commentary
Charles Gavan Duffy, editorial notice to “The Fairy Child” in Ballad Poetry of Ireland (Dublin: James Duffy 1845), p.59: ‘The woman in whose character these lines are written, supposes her child stolen by a fairy. I need not mention how prevalent the superstition was among the peasantry, which attributed instances of sudden death to the agency of these spirits.' (Quoted in Selina Guinness, ‘“To Ireland in the Coming Times”: Exorcising Influence', in That Other World: The Supernatural and the Fantastic in Irish Literature [Princess Grace Irish Library (Monaco), Whitsun 1998], Colin Smythe 1998.)

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James Clarence Mangan, [q.tit.], in The Irishman (21 April 1849), [q.pp.]; Mangan praised Anster’s Faust as ‘the most finished and faithful of all translations’ (Dublin University Magazine, March [1836]), but wrote in 1849, ‘Dr Anster has not merely translated Faust, he has done much more-he has translated Goethe - or rather he has translated part of the mind of Goethe which was unknown to Goethe himself [...] he has actually made of Goethe the man whom his German worshippers claim him to be-he has created a pouch under the ribs of Death which they have revered as Jupiter-he is, in short, the real author of Faust’. [Cited in Robert Welch, A History of Verse Translation from the Irish 1789-1897, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1988, p.104-05.)

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W. R. Le Fanu, Seventy Years of Irish Life (London: Edward Arnold 1894), [q.p.]; contains the story of Anster who, whilst visiting the Le Fanus at Abingdon, Co. Limerick, drove through demonstrations during the Anti-Tithe War, and told his hosts, ‘I never knew I was so well-known down here ... the whole way as I drove from Limerick I was loudly cheered by the people.’ Le Fanu adds ‘We told him ...’.

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Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), [q.p.]; Quoting Mangan’s review of Anster’s Faust: ‘Dr. Anster has not merely translated Faust: he has done much more - he has translated Goethe - or rather, he has translated that part of the mind of Goethe which was unknown to Goethe himself … he has actually made of Goethe the man whom his German worshippers claim him to be … he is, in short, the real author of Faust'. [Mangan’s italics.]

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Quotations
The Fairy Child

The summer sun was sinking
With a mild light calm and mellow,
It shone on my little boy’s bonny cheeks,
And his loose locks of yellow.

The robin was singing sweetly,
And his song was sad and tender;
And my little boy’s eyes, as he heard the song,
Smiled with a sweet soft splendour.

My little boy lay on my bosom,
While his soul the song was quaffing;
The joy of his soul had ting’d his cheek,
And his heart and his eye were laughing.

I sat alone in my cottage,
The midnight needle plying;
I feared for my child, for the rush’s light
In the socket now was dying.

There came a hand to my lonely latch,
Like the wind at midnight moaning,
I knelt to pray - but rose again
For I heard my little boy groaning!

I crossed my brow, and I crossed my breast,
But that night my child departed!
They left a weakling in his stead,
And I am broken-hearted!

Oh! it cannot be my own sweet boy,
For his eyes are dim and hollow,
My little boy is gone to God,
And his mother soon will follow.

The dirge for the dead will be sung for me,
And the mass be chaunted meetly;
And I will sleep with my little boy
In the moon-light churchyard sweetly.

—John Anster, The Fairy Child